1. Dancer in Nirvana
  2. Elusive Mood
  3. John’s Green Waltz
  4. The Life of a Mushroom
  5. Stella’s Fancy
  6. Lady Peacock
  7. The Lost Sheep
  8. Reminiscence
  9. Epilogue (Yamanaka, Lossing, Brown & Cleaver)

All music composed by Kazuki Yamanaka except where noted

Produced by Kazuki Yamanaka
Executive Producer: Jordi Pujol (Fresh Sound Records)
Recorded at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, NYC on March 24th & 25th, 2019

FSNT 594
Release: March 19, 2020

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About two years ago I visited Sanjusangendo, a great Buddhist temple in Kyoto, and it was one of the most shocking experiences of my life. There were a thousand Kannon statues standing in the main hall. Obviously, they were quiet and physically unmoving, but I still felt enormous movement from them. Being in front of their upright, golden bodies with their palms together in prayer and watching their calm faces with closed eyes takes you somewhere marvelous. In all that silence, you hear something you could not hear before. The title of the album and its first track, “Dancer in Nirvana”, came from this spiritual experience of mine. I hope you are able to hear something unheard in this album. Just close your eyes and listen, embrace the unknown.

Thanks,
Kazuki Yamanaka (December 2019)

The idea of a sound. Long has been the journey that brought Kazuki Yam­­anaka from Saitama, a city at the periphery of Greater Tokyo Area, to New York City via the SUNY Conservatory of Music at Purchase College and, finally, the Brooklyn avant-garde jazz scene in the quest for his sound. Eventually, chance brought Kazuki and his partners to Brooklyn’s Ibeam in December 2018: and there it was, the sound. Thanks to the inner energy and openness to what the city has offer to those who can grab it in terms of diversity, these four musicians came together as a sound, each contributing independently, respecting each other, waiting patiently for what each has to say, note after note, sound after sound, until beauty is reached. This requires openness and acceptance to uncertainty, a sense of innocent surprise to capture the full benefit of what good and fresh the city has to offer and make it your own.

The sound of surprise, the ultimate essence of improvisation. As Kazuki himself states, “improvisational music is natural to me as I perceive it as human life itself: facing the unknown together, understanding each other, reaching for a common vision. There is no better feeling.” And this is what these four musicians transmit: a sense of purpose and empathy. It is hard to believe this is not a working band as it sounds like they have known and played with each other forever. Besides their individualities—Kazuki refers to them as energy (Russ), generosity (Cameron), and consistency (Gerald) —personal histories and experiences they express beauty. The three of them come together symbiotically in the music space Kazuki is able to create with his melodic yet free approach to composing that leaves ample space to express themselves fully and with all the calm it takes.

Thus the music speaks for and by itself, drawing from many different sources of inspiration: from Statues of Buddhism in Kyoto for Dancer in Nirvana to an “elusive” melody {Elusive Mood), a heartfelt dedication to John Abercrombie in John’s Green Waltz (one of his mentors along with Jon Gordon, Jon Faddis, and Hal Galper), and memories of old days in Reminiscence. Kazuki knows the tradition as Stella’s Fancy intervallic melody (is Stella fancy or the fancy of Stella?) and playing with Lady Bird’s changes in Lady Peacock clearly show. But it is his own approach and sharing his vision with his partners that make this music unique. Enjoy.

—Marco Cangiano
Staff Writer, The New York City Jazz Record

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